What to watch at home in August

Buster Keaton, time travel and an unlikely romance are among the gems to take home on Blu-ray and DVD this month.


Anton Bitel


Anton Bitel provides a look at six titles heading to streaming and physical media releases this month that you should add to the top of your shopping list.

A Moment of Romance, dir. Benny Chan, 1990

Benny Chan’s feature merges crime flick and romance, while teasing out these genres’ differences. Its ‘meet-cute’ occurs when Triad driver Wah Dee (Andy Lau) takes 17-year-old heiress JoJo Huen (Jacklyn Wu) hostage during the getaway from a brutally violent jewellery heist. Yet even if their relationship improbably begins with such rough objectification, it is not Stockholm syndrome that keeps drawing JoJo back to Dee, but rather the genuine kindness and respect that she perceives beneath his criminality. Reared by three foster mothers after his real mother died for love, Dee comes, alone among his hypermasculine colleagues, with a feminine side to match all the cool bravado.

It is this conflict, as much internal as external, that propels the star-cross’d lovers, whose chaste assignations unfold in noisy love hotels, highlighting the contrast between vice and virtue. Dee may be doomed by the internecine power games of his adopted lifestyle, but he faces his fate still wearing the elegant wedding suit that he had put on for one last night of love (and death) with JoJo, even as she sports a similarly stolen bridal dress whose whiteness, emblematic of her innocence, is now stained not with her but his blood.

A Moment of Romance is released on Blu-ray, 21 August via Radiance Films

Weird Science, dir. John Hughes, 1985

At the beginning of John Hughes’ goofy coming-of-age comedy, friends Gary (Anthony Michael Wallace) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) fantasise about what they would do with the girls they are watching work out in the school gym – yet despite their voyeuristic randiness, there is something peculiarly innocent about their expressly un-sexual intentions. Later, when they use Gary’s computer and a Frankenstein-inspired vision to create the woman of their dreams Lisa (Kelly LeBrock) who makes herself available to fulfil their every whim, the only sexual advantage that they take of her is to have a shower with her (while themselves clothed and terrified), or merely to watch her do gymnastics (like those girls at the beginning).

The premise here threatens puerile perversion, female exploitation, and an uncomfortable age gap (Wyatt seems young for 15, Lisa older than 23) – but in fact Hughes gives Lisa the confidence, agency and power that the boys lack, and makes her more fairy godmother than sex object. Lisa places the immature boys in scenarios where they learn to confront their parents, talk to girls and stand up for themselves, while – like the true fantasy that she is – erasing all evidence that she ever existed.

Weird Science is released on Limited Edition UHD, 21 August via Arrow

Time Bandits, dir. Terry Gilliam, 1981

While his parents obsess over the latest household consumerist items, little Kevin (Craig Warnock) reads books about the ancient world and is lost to his dreams. Perhaps a little too lost, given that at night he is visited in his room by a fugitive sextet of diminutive thieves (led by David Rappaport’s Randall) who whisk him away on a time-( and reality) hopping serial heist to plunder the past, even with the embodiment of Evil (David Warner) and God himself (Ralph Richardson) in pursuit.

The resulting adventures of Kevin and the Six Dwarves involve a whistle-stop tour of history and fantasy, taking in Napoleon (Ian Holm), Agamemnon (Sean Connery), Robin Hood (John Cleese), the Titanic, and Evil’s Lego-brick lair. This fairytale is reconstituted by a boy’s creative mind (during his sleeping hours) from the toys, books and posters in his bedroom – but with Terry Gilliam at the helm, and Michael Palin co-writing, it is also inflected with a Python-esque sense of absurdity that lampoons the childish adult characters here, big and small.

It is a funny, weird cameo-filled caper that finds value even in vice, and lets wild imagination ultimately win out over drab reality.

Time Bandits is released on Limited Edition UHD, 28 August via Arrow

Gregory’s Girl, dir. Bill Forsyth, 1980

“The nicest part is just before you taste it. Your mouth goes all tingly,” wise beyond her 10 years Madeline (Allison Forster) tells her teenage brother Gregory (John Gordon Sinclair). “But that can’t go on forever.”

Madeline is talking about the ginger beer float that she has just ordered – but this Abronhill-set microbudget romance is similarly focused on that sweet period of anticipation before adolescents come of age sexually. So while it may start with Gregory and his fellow footballers spying randily on a nurse as she undresses, these boys are in fact naïve virgins (one of whom faints at the mere sight of her breasts). Gregory’s expressed desire to take one girl “up the country park” turns out to be intended literally rather than as innuendo – and while the boys certainly objectify women, their sexism is confounded by the arrival of Dorothy (Dee Hepburn), whom they all fancy even as she outclasses them at football (which they regard as their male province).

What in other hands might have been a lustful low-brow comedy, writer/director Bill Forsyth makes a work of winning charm and surreal background detail, where everyone desires, but not everyone knows what – or who – they want.

Gregory’s Girl is released on Blu-ray and UHD, 21 Aug via BFI

Three Ages, dir. Buster Keaton, 1923

Although he had made a slew of successful shorts, and starred in Herbert Blaché and Winchell Smith’s The Saphead, this was the first feature that Buster Keaton would write, direct and star in. Though certainly parodying the multiple, time-hopping narratives of D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance, this film’s tripartite structure, as it cuts between stories set in the Stone, Roman and Modern Ages, was also an insurance policy: if it failed in its full-length form, it could be split up again into three separate shorts.

In fact, its three parts are closely intertwined, with the same cast repeating essentially the same story in three different time zones, all supposedly to prove a thesis delivered at the beginning by God Himself: “The only thing that has not changed since the World began is love. Love is the unchanging axis on which the World revolves.”

Yet as puny but perspicacious Keaton vies with the larger, cheating Wallace Beery for the hand of Margaret Leahy, it will turn out that the other constants in this non-evolving history are ingenious stunts, pratfalls and sight gags, which see Keaton always eventually outsmarting his bullying rival and tying the knot with Leahy.

Three Ages is released on Blu-ray, 21 August via Eureka!

The Last House On The Left, dir. Dennis Iliadis, 2009

Whether you think it is a harrowing indictment of a violent Vietnam-era America divided from itself, or just a tonal confusion of comedy cops, cringy music cues and human cruelty, everyone can agree that Wes Craven’s shocky, schlocky 1972 The Last House On The Left, loosely updating Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, belongs to that most vilified subgenre of horror, rape-revenge.

This is what makes Denis Iliadis’ remake so interesting. For while it follows most of the original’s narrative beats, again pitting two families – one middle-class and mainstream, the other marginal and murderous – against each other, it is more a matter of rape-survival. Still grieving the recent loss of their son, Dr John (Tony Goldwyn) and Emma Collingwood (Monica Potter) will stop at nothing to keep their teen daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) alive, even as Krug (Garret Dillahunt) and his criminal gang, who abducted, raped and left Mari for dead, are now holed up in the nearby guest house.

Only in the final scene does Iliadis deliver the basic revenge, served microwave hot, that he has till now carefully withheld. It is a sordid conclusion, putting us right in our place for being drawn to this remake, and confronting us with the ugliness of what we expected – and desired – all along.

The Last House on the Left is released on Limited Edition UHD and Blu-ray, 28 August via Arrow

Published 9 Aug 2023

Tags: A Moment of Romance Gregory's Girl The Last House on the Left Three Ages Time Bandits Weird Science

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